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Bears mourn the passing of Michael B. McCaskey

McCaskey 1

It is with great sadness the Chicago Bears and the McCaskey family mourn the loss of Michael B. McCaskey, 76, after his lengthy battle with cancer.

"Mike was already successful in every sense of the word when he took over for George S. Halas after the passing of 'Papa Bear' in 1983," said the McCaskey family. "We are grateful to Mike for overseeing arguably the greatest team in NFL history, and for his many years of service to the Bears and to us. The oldest of 11 siblings has many duties thrust upon him, not all of them pleasant, yet Mike handled them all with grace and patience. Although Mike's passing was not brought on by the novel coronavirus, our family, like so many people, is not able to gather and grieve together at this time. Our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. Our focus in the coming days will be to celebrate Mike's life, and be whatever source of support we can be to John and Kathryn and those they love."

Michael joined the family business in 1983, when he succeeded his grandfather, George S. Halas, as President & CEO and held that position until 1999 when he became the team's chairman. Under McCaskey's leadership, the Bears had eight playoff seasons, claimed six NFC Central Division titles and were crowned Super Bowl XX champions. Following the 1985 Super Bowl championship, his peers voted him NFL Executive of the Year. Michael also served as Chairman of the Board of the Bears from 1999-2011.

In the spring of 1997, under Michael's guidance, the Bears moved from the original Halas Hall on the campus of Lake Forest College to a new state-of-the-art home and where the team still resides today. The move provided the team its own private campus that included an indoor practice facility in addition to space that recently was further developed to include a total of four outdoor practice fields and 305,500 square feet of indoor training and office space.

In 1995, Michael co-founded the team's charitable foundation, Bears Care, which has since granted more than $21 million to over 100 agencies throughout the Chicagoland community through targeted programs supporting education, youth athletics and medical research and health awareness programs focusing on breast and ovarian cancer.

"My heart is heavy as I think about Michael McCaskey and can't believe he is no longer with us," said Bears President & CEO Ted Phillips. "His fierce love of the Bears was unmatched as was his intellectual capacity and thirst for knowledge on a myriad of subjects. Michael displayed a professorial presence that could be challenging, but was also inspiring. I will be forever grateful for the many opportunities for growth that he provided me, as well as for his trust and support. Michael always strived to do things the right way with high character and with the Bears best interests always paramount. Michael was a good man, gone much too soon. He presided over the only Super Bowl championship Chicago Bears team in 1985, and I know he is still smiling about that magical season. God bless Michael and his family."

McCaskey served on the NFL's Long Range Planning Committee, Expansion Committee, Stadium Committee and Finance Committee. He was a member of the Chicago Field Museum of National History, the Economic Club of Chicago, the Commercial Club of Chicago, the World Presidents' Organization, and the Union League Club of Chicago. He was a Director of WTTW, the Chicago based public television station, and served on the Board of the Big Shoulders Organization, which supports schools in the inner city of Chicago. McCaskey was also on the Advisory Committee to the Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago and helped establish an Information Technology Training Center for immigrants to Chicago.

"Michael McCaskey proudly carried forth the legacy of his grandfather and NFL pioneer George Halas as team president and chairman and played an instrumental role in the success and popularity of the Bears," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "The Bears' memorable 1985 season and their Super Bowl XX victory helped further propel the NFL onto a global stage. Michael was a driving force in growing the NFL's international footprint with the first American Bowl game in London featuring the Bears and the Dallas Cowboys in 1986. He was also dedicated to serving his community and helped create Bears Care, which became a model foundation in supporting charities throughout the Chicago area. Michael was a calm and sound voice in league meetings, befitting of his time as a professor before becoming Bears' president. We extend our deepest sympathies to Michael's children Kathryn and John, his mother Virginia and the entire McCaskey family, and the Bears organization."

McCaskey graduated from Yale University in 1965 having majored in philosophy and psychology. He spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer, teaching science, English and music to junior high students in Ethiopia. He earned his doctorate in business from Case Western Reserve University in 1972. McCaskey taught organizational behavior and management courses at UCLA for three years. He then became an Associate Professor at the Harvard Business School. During his seven years in Boston, McCaskey taught MBAs and Executives, and wrote numerous journal articles, case studies and a book, ­The Executive Challenge: Managing Change and Ambiguity.

Michael was the oldest of Ed and Virginia McCaskey's 11 children. He is survived by his two children, John and Kathryn, and one grandson, Jackson.